Everything I do must have a universal approach: Pawan Shahri

In an exclusive interview with Mumbai Live, one of the young restaurateurs, Pawan Shahri, talks about his love he has for the Food and Beverage sector. Here's what he shared about the journey, brands, aspirations, challenges and a lot more.

Everything I do must have a universal approach: Pawan Shahri

The food and beverage industry in Mumbai has seen an exponential growth over the years. Investors are trying their best to offer quality services and a niche experience through their restaurant, bars and clubs. With this growth, restaurateurs are facing a competition, both immediately with other brands and with the online aggregators who offer heavy discounts to ensure visibility and numbers. 

Amid the names which are successful in the business today, is a 25-year-old restaurant enthusiast and the youngest businessman in the space. Pawan Shahri is a name many in the F&B industry reckon with, as the young lad, who stepped in the competitive sector at the age of 16, today successfully runs four businesses - Chrome Communications,  One consult (which owns, manages and runs restaurants),  Label (Artist Management) and  Late night Mumbai (Blog which talks about city's nightlife) - all in the same space. 

In an exclusive conversation with Mumbai Live, Pawan shares his journey, insights about the business, highs and lows, plus a lot more. Below is the excerpt...

Journey - how it started...

When I was working in the 'nightclub' industry, I realized the gap in the market. I was in the HR, every place has one or two people who got into the bar somehow. I started promoting the bars and I could get them the entry and the word spread amid my close college crowd. It grew but I realized that the brands were not marketing themselves better, be it through communication or DJ or interacting with the audience etc. Eventually my experience of working with the nightclubs and events as a promoter who assisted them in selling tickets, helped me grow my understanding of the industry. With time we moved into coordinating across divisions through my firm, Chrome. But after the college was over, I wanted to shift my work cycle to normal, i.e. during the day. That's when we made a list of what all we learned over the years, in the hospitality, and hence my social media brand was born. We had the edge over other agencies where we knew the audience and lot of market understanding. Database and market research helped me a lot due to my curiosity and I put it to use much later as it was a part of market research. Ever since then we grew from Chrome nightlife to Chrome Communications, and today I'm associated with four business ideas. One of them is the recent collaboration with an investor who saw the capabilities in me and the team, and that's how Butterfly High was born. It was an instant success  and all my learnings have given this result. We realised that expansion was the way ahead, and so we came up with Bigg Small cafe, focusing on a cosy brand where corporates drop by to spend time.

Restaurant business today

We are living in a world where aggregators are important, as they go to the forefront to help the business grow, by helping the brand reach a certain audience. Brands have been doing that, but they work on a percentage mdoel, which they take the sales. However, in the restaurant business, this model becomes very expensive, as other aspects also incur huge costs. Aggregators have realised that they need to produce offers to work. None of my restaurants are on any aggregator app, as we believe we can cater to the audience with our offerings through the models we have designed internally. It all depends on how strong the product is. I speak to many restaurateurs  through NRAI youth committee where we can help brands grow as a standalone product. I ensure people come to us and our brands for our offerings. One shouldn't change the vision of the project, because if it does, then aggregators make their way through. 

Standalone restaurant vs. a chain of restaurants...

I want to be in the business for the next 100 years. The idea is to build a brand for generations to come. I gave visitors who come to my brand for what we offer, irrespective of the offers. Whenever I and my partners have started a brand, we use our significant database in the city and beyond. The word of mouth that happens via our circles and partners helps us get the word out. This follows and becomes a buzz where people get drawn to our brand. 

What are you working on...

We are working on an interesting app where we help restaurant understand their customers better. The costs are high (which needs to reduce) and we need to technically empower restaurants. I cannot reveal much about it, but it would help ease out the operations for the restaurants. Further, the team through the app also gives the data which the restaurant team would be benefit from. The same would also be applicable for events of any scale, basis which decisions can be taken. This app would have many benefits and features which I can only speak after few weeks, once the official announcement is made.

Challenges overcome

There have been many ups and downs, but it is a part of everyone's growth. My business has been diverse, where we started with doing everything, said no because we had a lot to do, conducted events when it was unexpected by clients (under pressure), etc. But what we have realised that we have to keep working hard to grow. One aspect or quality I have always lived up to is to have someone to look upto - someone who you get inspired from. I also never shy away from having a conversation with anybody and it has helped. It's a habit I have and I think it is a quality I'll continue with.

Ambitions and aspirations

I'm the youngest restaurateur in Mumbai, and I have always been good at networking. I have the edge over understanding the market. For me it's about providing the experience, as it is key. I want to wow people, so that they come back again for work and collaboration. Our association with clients has grown stronger and we are expanding with time. Anything and everything I do has to have a universal approach, where everyone between 6-60 can be my consumer. One space I'll be getting into, in the future, is distribution. If I get an opportunity I would think about it. But for now, I'm very clear on building what I currently have. All my business need my focus and we want to grow big. Everybody has seen our growth and we want to be in the competitive space.